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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXI - The Crisis at the Spelling-match

ONE day in March, just two months before Colin reached his seventeenth birthday, there was a spelling-match. It was on Friday, and it was often the custom to hold spelling-matches on Fridays, just before the school was let out for the week.

The practice was to appoint two captains and call sides; then the master would alternate from side to side in giving words to spell. The side that survived the longest won, and the pupil that was last on the floor enjoyed unusual distinction. It happened this day that Katie and Colin were on opposite sides, and that they were the last two on the floor. They did not, however, mind being rivals in this way, for they could both spell well and each would have rejoiced to see the other win, although they both did their best. There were, perhaps, no two scholars in the school whom Simon was less anxious to see win the honours of the match, and the jealousy he felt, was beginning to exhibit itself in the way he gave out the words.

"Now, Katie, I want you to spell Ďimminent,í" said Simon.

"E-m-i-n-e-n-t," spelled Katie.

"Wrong," said Simon; "step down."

"Would you mind repeating the word?" said Katie, for she was confident that she had spelled the word correctly.

Simon was growing very angry and was not going to give Katie the information, when Colin broke in : ó

"Itís Ďimminent,í Katie, that he means, something near or impending, not eminent."

"Oh," said Katie, "I could spell that word," which she immediately did.

But the storm of Simonís wrath, which he had repressed for a longer time "than wis his usual," as Auld Peggy would say, burst out in unrestrained fury. He made for Colin with a wild rush, when poor Katie, whose sympathy and fear for the lad fairly carried her away, stepped in between them.

The blow with the burnt taws that Simon had aimed at Colinís head fell with stinging effect across poor Katieís face and eyes. The girl, half dazed and smarting with the frightful pain, dropped into a seat. Colin leaped to her side, his face pale and agitated.

"Are you hurt very badly, Katie dear?" he said, as he raised her childlike form in his arms. But Katie only sobbed convulsively in answer.

When Colin satisfied himself that Katie was not in danger, he turned to Simon, whose face was ablaze with malice, and who seemed anxious to vent his wrath on the lad.

"You aimed that blow at me," said Colin, walking up to Simon in a manner which caused the master to wince. He had never seen that look on Colinís face before, and it made him feel uneasy. His wrath began to subside rapidly.

"Yes," answered Simon, for he felt he was before a presence that compelled an answer.

"Well," said Colin, slowly, and with deliberation, "had it struck me, you might have escaped the consequences, but your time had to come sooner or later, and it is just as well that it should come now. You have been a brute, sir, yes, a brute. I am surprised that I did not kill you long ago. Do you see those marks on my neck?" said Colin, loosening his shirt collar and exposing a series of black and blue streaks. "Those were made by your cruel taws. It had to come to an end sooner or later, and Iím glad that the end has come. Here," said Colin, savagely, "give me those taws !"

Simon perceived the purpose that was in Colinís mind, and he began to tremble like the coward that he was.

"Here, Jamie McMannus, run for the trustees," he said, fear taking possession of him, for Colin was quite as big as he, and had the advantage of being much younger.

But Jamie, staunch friend that he was of Colinís, and remembering how his champion had defended him under "the poplars" when he thrashed Dannie, refused to budge an inch.

"Well, Dannie, you go," said Simon. But Dannie, who had recently been hearing murmurings at home that satisfied him that the master was not all he should be, also refused to move.

Simon then appealed to Pete Pepper, the meanest boy in school; but when Pete was about to start, Colin stopped him. "Pete," he said, "if you budge an inch, Iíll trounce you." This threat had the desired effect, and Simon realised that he must face his antagonist.

"Hand me those taws!" again demanded Colin. But Simon, realising what Colin intended to do, refused, and was making towards the door, when Colin rushed at him, and with overmastering strength tore the instrument of torture out of his hands.

Several of the larger boys, encouraged by Colinís example, were rolling up their sleeves, preparing to help him if necessary, and this thoroughly frightened the craven Simon. The rest of the boys and girls in the school gazed on the spectacle, awe-stricken, and even Katie forgot her pain and was also a trembling spectator of the struggle.

It was beyond comprehension to see the authority of this tyrant defied right in the schoolhouse, and to see him chased about the room and brought to bay at last by the aroused and determined Colin. With a strength that amazed himself, and with the blood coursing his veins like fire, Colin dragged the master up the aisle to the front of the school.

"Now, Simon," he said, "I want you to take off your coat!"

Simon, of course, did not do so, whereat Colin went at him like a tiger and tore the garment from his back.í The menacing attitude of the big boys, who were prepared to assist Cohn if necessary, seemed to deprive the master of any courage to resist.

Then, swinging the taws aloft, Colin brought them down with terrific force upon Simonís back. The tyrant cried out with pain, but it seemed a labour of love to Colin, so thoroughly possessed was he with the idea of settling an old score and wiping out years of humiliation, which he and the other scholars had suffered at Simonís hands. The taws continued to descend upon Simonís head and back with unabated vigour, and it was only when Colinís arm grew tired, and when he had beaten the tyrant till he roared for mercy that he desisted, and flinging the taws contemptuously in the face of the dazed, cowering wretch who stood before him, said : ó"I think, Simon, that we are now quits, and I take my leave of you forever!"

"Come, Katie," he said kindly, turning to his pale and trembling sweetheart, "let us be going," and with Katie by his side, Colin strode out of the schoolhouse.

He felt as he left the portals that he had passed an important milestone in life, and he seemed to realise that his school days were ended, as indeed they were, for he never again returned to the school in the settlement. It often brings a feeling of sadness as one realises that milestones such as these are passed, and that for us they will never be encountered again. And so, after all, it was with a heavy heart that Colin returned to the widowís.

It is true he had administered a well-deserved punishment to Simon, but he felt that he might be regarded as a bully. A strange depression took possession of him. He began to feel, after vengeance had been taken, that there is something unsatisfying about it, and that, as Mrs. McNabb had said, "God knew far more about it than we poor mortals when he said, ĎVengeance belongeth unto me, I will repay.í"

He spent another sleepless night. Thoughts of the dayís events and of the future that lay before him were coursing through his mind. After he had told Mrs. McNabb all his feelings, and she had talked long and earnestly with him, he lay until the sunís morning rays lighted up his room. Then he rose softly, and as it was still early, he strolled away down the lane to the woods.

Seeking a clump of balsams, which was his favourite resort, he threw himself upon the dead twigs. At length peace came to him. He resolved that he would never again undertake to administer the vengeance that "belongeth unto the Lord." He washed himself at the spring, and returned to the house just in time to join the others at breakfast.

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